Bengaluru FC take down Kerala Blasters 3-1 in ISL
Kochi: Rene Meulensteen was brave enough to add Iain Hume to the team by replacing foreign goalkeeper Paul Rachubka. Subhashish Bose was the custodian for the day. CK Vineeth was omitted from the matchday squad.
Udanta Singh came back into the Bengaluru first team after passing a late fitness test. The young winger, along with Sunil Chhetri, flanked Miku for the visitors.
Kerala Blasters surged forward in numbers immediately after kick-off but the first real chance came at the other end for Bengaluru's leading goalscorer Miku. Edu Garcia's free-kick from the right was headed straight at Subhasish Bose in goal.
Dimitar Berbatov's absence paved the way towards regular first-team minutes for young forward Mark Sifneos and it was the Dutchman who found himself at the end of a well-executed lob over the Bengaluru backline by Wes Brown. With only Gurpreet in clear sight, the 21-year-old failed to connect to the delivery. Bengaluru grew in confidence as the first half wore on, with the linesman getting his much-needed exercise on the eve of the New Year. Dimas Delgado sent Miku's lay-off into the net but the Venezuelan was offside while bringing down Juanan's long ball.
A handball by Sandesh Jhingan in the 60th minute allowed Bengaluru to break the deadlock at the JLN Stadium. Sunil Chhetri's cross had graced the arm of the former Bengaluru FC defender before reaching Miku in the centre of the box.
The Indian skipper stepped up and slotted the ball into the corner of the net to stun the home fans.
Hume's effort from a free-kick outside the box had an alert Gurpreet diving low to his right but it crept inches wide of the post. Sunil Chhetri was applauded off the pitch by the large crowd in Kochi late in the game. His replacement Alwyn George dragged his shot wide of Rachubka's goal a few seconds later to silence the crowd yet again. Sandesh Jhingan's lack of awareness presented Miku with another chance and the gift was graciously accepted by the striker who took his ISL tally to eight goals, joining Ferran Corominas at the top of the chart.
Courage Pekuson scored a consolation goal at the fag end of the game but the cheers were reduced tears when the referee whistled for full-time immediately afterwards.